Trees Can Do It All, Including Keeping Water Clean

Trees can be put to work, handling a variety of jobs.  According to North Central District Forester Richard Woollen of the Nebraska Forest Service, one of those jobs is protecting water quality.

Woolen said that in addition to things like protection for livestock, farmsteads, crops and communities, trees help to keep the water in streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers at better quality levels. 

The forester said that trees and associated vegetation help to filter contaminants as vegetation and plant debris slows surface runoff encouraging sediment and sediment-bound contaminants to settle before entering surface water. Roots and plant residue improve soil structure, enhancing infiltration of dissolved contaminants. Once in the soil these contaminants can be immobilized, transformed by soil microbes, or taken up by vegetation. This natural filtering effect may also serve to trap wind-blown dust before it enters streams and lakes.

In addition, Woollen said that the leaves and branches of trees intercept rainfall, reducing their erosive power and slowing the movement of rainwater as it trickles down branches and drips from the canopy. Stiff stems of trees and shrubs resist and slow out-of-bank streamflow. Plant debris serves to protect exposed soil and roots bind soil particles to help prevent erosion and stabilize slopes.

Aquatic habitat is improved as trees provide shade that reduces water temperature and prevents large and sudden temperature fluctuations. Woollen said large woody debris creates habitat structure and smaller detritus contributes to the aquatic food chain.

The Lower Loup NRD has conservation tree seedlings for sale now.  Conifers available include Austrian Pine, Black Hills Spruce, Jack Pine, Norway Spruce, Eastern Redcedar, Scotch Pine, Rocky Mountain Juniper and South Western White Pine.

The hardwood selection includes American Elm, Black Walnut, Black Cherry, Bur Oak, Catalpa, Hackberry, Honeylocust, Hybrid Cottonwood, Red Oak, Silver Maple, and Swamp White Oak.  The shrub selection includes American Plum, American Hazelnut, Amur Maple, Buffaloberry, Caragana, Chokecherry, Common Lilac, Crabapple, Elderberry False Indigo, Fragrant Sumac, Golden Currant,  Manchurian Apricot, McKenzie Black Chokeberry, Nanking Cherry, Peking Cotoneaster, Red Osier Dogwood, Sandcherry, Serviceberry, Skunkbush Sumac.

Conservation trees are priced at $1 per seedling and must be ordered in lots of 25.  To order on-line, click here.